Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Lindsay Tanner has his say about detention centres, conveniently forgetting that his party brought them in, went to the last election supporting the policy as it stands, and has bugger-all intention of changing it.

This leads me to the first of a series about what I call those “comfortable lies” about immigration fed to Australians by a media too irrelevant to be bothered offering a full picture.

Tanner offers one example of a single mother detained legally while her application for refugee status is processed. Given that 80% of ALL requests for asylum are processed within six months, Tanner carefully gives no detail of this woman’s case. We do know that she brought two children with her when she illegally entered Australia, and has had another whilst in detention.

In a country that accepts refugees at four times the rate of the UNHCR, this woman has had her application rejected, at least two or three times. Despite the best efforts of an army of advocates, she has not been able to prove her status as a refugee.

Tanner’s solution? Let her out “just for now”. We are shown piteous glimpses of life in detention, but no information about just why she is still there.

Tanner wants us to believe that if this woman was to be deported, she would meekly return to her hell hole accommodation and hop on the plane. The unspoken is that Tanner would not object either, since his desires, as far as he is honest enough to voice, will have been met.

The reality is, of course, very different. Let’s say the woman and her children live in the community for the two years or so that it takes her to exhaust every possible legal challenge to her determination. Now the Immigration staff shows up at her door to take her and her babes-in-arms away, to be tossed onto the scrap heap of humanity. The media scrum closes in, the children scream, the mother pitches a fit. Earnest politicians seize the moment to demonstrate their compassion for the people who were going to vote for them anyway.

See, this way Tanner shows his credentials, without danger of having them enacted. He can point to articles like this and say “I did my bit”, without resigning that safe seat in Parliament, without making a stand, without risking a thing.

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